Huntington Library

  • Arts & Culture
  • 1919

The Huntington Library is one of the world’s great cultural, research, and educational centers. It was founded by Henry Huntington, an upstate New Yorker who came to California and built rail lines, and eventually served on 60 corporate boards. Huntington’s railroad building helped drive the explosive growth of the Los Angeles area, and his library gave the raw new city a great institution of research, art, and scholarship.

During his lifetime, Huntington amassed one of the finest private libraries in the world, established a splendid art collection, and created a stunning array of botanical gardens. At the age of 60 he retired to focus on his collections and the landscaping of his 600-acre ranch. Huntington’s wife, Arabella, was herself one of the most important art connoisseurs of her generation, and highly influential in the development of the collection now displayed in their former mansion. It includes many masterpieces, and the botanical garden of 120 acres features more than a dozen different specialized gardens, including the Desert Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, the Chinese Garden, and subtropical, herb, jungle, and palm gardens.

The library has on display some of the finest rare books and manuscripts of Anglo-American civilization, and includes about 6 million items in total, including a Gutenberg Bible on vellum, the double-elephant folio edition of Audubon’s Birds of America, and a superlative collection of the early editions of Shakespeare’s works. The Huntington is also among the nation’s most important centers for the study of the American West, including the pioneer experience, the Gold Rush, and the development of southern California. Much important research has been conducted in the library.

In 1919, Henry and Arabella Huntington transferred their San Marino home and collections to a nonprofit educational trust. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens now host more than 500,000 visitors each year. An extensive education program serves about 12,000 school children annually.